Social Media Accounts Now Requested for Visa Applications
Social media usage is higher than ever and its introduction has changed processes from companies’ marketing campaigns, to following the lifestyles of your favourite celebrity. Given how prominent it is now, it is no surprise that it is being used for more important things like screening people for employment and even visa applications.
Since May 2019, the US government has started to request that applicants provide their social media account details as part of their visa application. They are asked to provide all of their social media account names on all social media platforms. In addition, applicants are required to provide any telephone numbers and email addresses they have had for the previous five years.
Why is this information being requested for visa applications?
The US government now use this information to check for security threats, for example, if the visa applicant has demonstrated any terrorist related views via their social media posts or other illegal activities that would mean they potentially pose a threat to the safety of US citizens.
Does this apply for ESTA applications?
ESTA Apllication do not currently require this as mandatory information. There is a section on the ESTA form that requests social media account information but it is an optional field. This could change in the future, if Homeland Security decides that they need that information as part of the ESTA screening process.
What is the difference between ESTA and visa?
ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization and it is part of the Visa Waiver Program. The US introduced the system to enable citizens from what they assess to be low risk countries to visit the US for tourism or business purposes.
There are currently 38 countries that are members of the VWP that are able to benefit from the more simple process of applying for an ESTA in order to enter the US. The process of applying for ESTA is much shorter than for a visa and often an ESTA can be approved within a few hours, although you should give at least 72 hours in advance of your expected departure to the US.
With a visa, you will be requested to attend an interview at the US Embassy and you will be required to provide the relevant documentation that supports your application. For example, if you are applying for a working visa , you would be required to provide your employment contract as evidence that you already have been offered employment. Or if you are applying for a student visa, you are required to provide your college offer letter as evidence, as well as proof that you have enough funds in the bank to cover the costs of studying and living in the US for the period of time your visa is valid for.
There is also a lower application fee for an ESTA compared to a full US visa, which is another reason that it is the better option for travel authorization for those citizens that are eligible to apply for it.